Assembling A Beehive: A Crash Course

If you are thinking about beekeeping it can be a bit of a daunting task. There’s so many pieces to a hive and so many things to choose from. To make it easier, this is a little bit of instruction and information all in one place.

Choosing What Suits You

For beginners who want to have lasting boxes that stand the test of time, and are easier to manage, we recommend picking one of the treated wood types for your beehive. 
The grade of the wood you choose comes down to how much you want to spend and how beat up you could see a box getting.

Timber Treatment Type:

First you need to think about the wood of the hive and what suits you the best. Honeycliffes offers three different wood treatments to our customers. ThermoWood, TanE and Untreated.

Untreated is NZ Radiata Pine that usually protected by dipping it in paraffin wax and then simply painting the outside with a few layers of paint. This option is the least durable as it is not treated against mould and fungus .

ThermoWood is thermally modified NZ Radiata Pine that has had anything that fungus and mould may gain nutrition from cooked out of it. Because of the heat treatment it becomes harder and a little more brittle, so it is recommended that if you are going to screw this wood together, to pre-drill the holes. A layer or two of paint and this timber will be good to go out in the field.

Tanalised Ecowood is a bee-friendly chemically treated wood option. It is treated differently to standard CCA wood and does not contain chrome or arsenic which makes it the healthier and more environmentally friendly option for your bees. Because of its treatment it does not support mould or fungus growth and is not harmful to your bees. We recommend giving it one or two layers of paint to ensure that it is not damaged by damp to give you the longest lasting hive possible.

Timber Grades:

We also have different qualities of wood which need to be considered when picking what suits you the best.

The highest grade is Premium, knot free but minor defects such as blemishes can occur. 

Our Commercial grade has tight knots, away from the ends so they can be easily fixed with staples, nails or screws.  

Our Seconds grade is a downfall product accumulating from the production of Premium and Commercial boxes. They have larger knots and smaller knots can be near the edges.

Assembling Your Hive
Now it is time to select your components and assemble a great hive and the following list is an idea of what a standard beginners hive could be.
When arranging a hive you will need to start with the hive floor. This is what the hive sits on and lets the bees into the hive.
Next is the full depth box that will be functioning as a brood box. This is where the queen bee lives and lays her eggs. 
On top of that you will want a queen excluder. This is a mesh that the smaller worker bees can fit through but the queen can’t, so that she doesn’t lays eggs in the honey stored in the boxes above that you want to harvest. We got ours from Ceracell, and it fits perfectly with our Honeycliffes hives.
Next comes our honey super. This is a 3/4 depth box that we will be putting 3/4 depth frames in for our bees to store honey in for us.
After that we will put our feeder frame on top of that. This is what a feeder is placed in so the bees don’t starve to death over winter when food is scarce.
Next up is our hive mat so that the bees have some insulation against the elements. The hive mat creates a dead air space that acts as insulation between it and the lid.
And last but not least, a lid for your hive. Honeycliffes hive lids are made from galvanised steel, and hold down snugly to keep the elements and pests out.

Last you will want a ratchet strap or something similar to tighten around the hive and hold it all together. No one wants a hive falling to pieces.


3-piece Shiplap Beehive Floors

Timber moves, especially across the grain (over the width of the boards), due to variations in temperature and moisture. The 3-piece Bee Box Floor is designed with shiplap joints to allow for this movement and we recommend assembling the floors as follows:

As per the diagram below line up the first board with the end of the bearers making sure the bearers are at right angles to the board.

Position the next two boards and allow for a 2mm gap in the shiplap joints. The overall width of Tunnicliffe’s bee boxes is 409mm and you should end up at this width.

We recommend nailing or screwing the boards in the positions shown in the diagram below to avoid splitting of floor boards when they move.

The 75 or 100 x 50mm H4 bearers are 405mm long, shorter than the box is wide to avoid the floors from hooking up with neighbouring hives when stacking them close for transport. The board will therefore overhang on one side by approx. 4mm which is normal. Alternatively, you can start with a 2mm overhang of the first board to locate the bearer evenly under the floorboards.

The ‘back’ riser is cut short to also allow for movement and should have a 2mm gap either side from the side risers.